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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 45, October 30, 2010

Ensuring Right to Education in the Red Corridor

Saturday 30 October 2010, by Gladson Dungdung


The Indian Government and media are repeatedly telling us that 92,000 square kilometres of geographical area covering 170 districts in nine States of India are out of control of the Indian state. The vicinity is full of natural resources including varieties of minerals, forests and water sources. The territory is ruled by the Maoists; therefore the government has branded it as the ‘Red Corridor’. Actually, the area is highly adivasi dominated, therefore it is supposed to be called the ‘Adivasi Corridor’. And, of course, it is their homeland. The Indian state has been carrying out a major offensive in the Red Corridor since October 2009 to clear the land. In a latest development, the British company, “Execution Nobel Limited”, has estimated a business of $ 80 billion if the area is liberated from the Maoists. Consequently, the government is determined to cleanse the Maoists by 2013 by taking all the required steps.

Meanwhile, on April 1, 2010 (the day is observed as “All Fools Day” and many attempt to fool others on that day), the Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, appeared in the television channels with a blue turban in his head and declared the day as a historic one for the Indians since he was addressing the nation on the occasion of the coming into force of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009. Perhaps, hardly anyone from the Red Corridor saw him in the television channels, as survival and protection are the biggest questions for them rather than hearing about the right to education coming from the mouth of the Prime Minister.

However, while addressing the nation he said:

Today, our Government comes before you to redeem the pledge of giving all our children the right to elementary education by enforcing the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009. The needs of every disadvantaged section of our society, particularly girls, Dalits, adivasis and minorities, must be of particular focus as we implement this Act.

Further, he said:

I want every Indian child, girl and boy, to be so touched by the light of education. I want every Indian to dream of a better future and live that dream.

The spirit of the government merits appreciation but it is impractical, the government has officially ensured 75 per cent reservation for the privileged children in the private schools and also legalised the dual education system and privatisation of education.

At this juncture, we must recall that the Indian Constitution guarantees to everyone the right to life, equality and liberty, which means the state cannot put any condition on the institutions; this results in denial of other’s rights and facilitates the growth of inequality. Frankly speaking, the right to equal education will ensure the right to equality. However, the Act ensures more privileges to the elite children. Obviously, it was a historic day for the children of ‘India’ and a bad day for the children of ‘Bharat’, who have to face rapidly growing inequality, denial of rights and social justice. Indeed, the state has been abdicating its constitutional responsibilities and this is utterly dangerous.

However, it was just like any other day for the children of the Red Corridor on April 1. As usual, they were jumping in the forests here and there like monkeys; a few of them were rearing goats, some of them gathering eatables and others grazing cattle in the forests because there were police camps in their schools and the security forces were attempting to occupy other schools too in the name of dealing with the Maoists, the biggest internal security threat to the nation; this is what the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, Home Minister, P. Chidambaram, and their officers have been telling the people of the country as well as the world community since 2006.

It is a hard fact that the children of the Red Corridor hardly know about their curriculum because they never get books on time. Jharkhand is a crucial State in the Red Corridor where the government was never able to give books to children on time since 2001. However, everyone is promoted in the class without qualification and the education budget of the State is also almost utilised. Interestingly, children are unaware about their curriculum; many do not even remember the alphabet, tables and rhyme but they are very much acquainted with the information related to the weapons used by the contending parties—the state and the Maoists—in their war against each other.

ONE can get an idea of the ground realities by spending a couple of hours with the children of the adjoining areas of Ranchi, the capital city of Jharkhand, like the Bundu, Tamar, Arki, Khunti and Angara blocks. The children are well aware about AK-47, gun, pistol, bomb, landmine, etc. but they do not know about their class-books. In these circumstances, one can only fear for the painful future of these children. They will be either victimised by the police or the Maoists will engage them in the war against the state. In both cases, they will be the only sufferers. In this situation, can they hear about their rights from someone and demand for the enforcement of those rights when the government is not even ready to accept the serious violation of those rights by the security forces but blames the Maoists for everything?
The Jharkhand unit of the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) had asked the Jharkhand Government through an RTI petition to furnish information regarding the schools occupied by the security forces in the State. Since the government had no way to find an escape-route, therefore a list of 52 schools was given to the PUCL. On the basis of that information, the PUCL filed a PIL in the Jharkhand High Court in 2008. Consequently, the Court ordered the government to get the schools vacated from the security forces within the next six months. However, only a few schools were vacated. The Court gave three such orders and the last order ended on October 30, 2010 but the police camps still continue in many schools. Surprisingly, no action was taken against the police officers for their failure to carry out the Court’s orders.

Rights based organisations—the Jharkhand Indigenous People’s Forum (JIPF) and Operation Green Hunt Virodhi Nagrik Manch—also intervened on the issue of denial of the right to education to children in the Red Corridor. The JIPF sent letters along with lists of 48 permanent and 40 temporary camps of the Jharkhand Armed Police (JAP) and the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in the schools to the Union Home Minister and Governor of Jharkhand requesting them to take necessary steps to vacate the schools immediately and also ensure that the security forces do not occupy any school in future so that the right to education of children of those villages can be ensured. However, the Home Ministry did not take any action except assuring of action on phone but the Governor ordered the police to vacate the schools. Ironically, only a few schools were vacated, and this the government plays up as a big achievement though the permanent police camps are still there in 31 schools.

The JIPF again submitted a list of 31 schools to the Home Secretary of Jharkhand, Rajbala Verma, requesting her to vacate the schools from the security forces. She proudly said that only 11 schools are still occupied by the security forces and “we will vacate those schools within a few months”. The status report of the government shows that the police want to continue their camps in some schools for a another six months and in some schools even for a longer time and they are attempting to get permission from the Deputy Commissioner. There are also cases where the DC has given permission to the police for camping in the schools; this clearly means the government does not bother about the rights of the children living in the Red Corridor. The children are being denied the right to education along with the right to food, which is a clear violation of their right to life with dignity guaranteed under Articles 21 and 21a of the Constitution. Can the Indian state mete out the same treatment to the elite children?

Needless to say, when the Maoists blow up a school building, it becomes breaking news for the national new channels and front page news for the print media. However, hundreds of schools occupied by the security forces for years do not become an issue for the same media. We fail to understand what the fourth realm of democracy (media) is doing? How long will the adivasis, Dalits and other marginalised groups continue to be betrayed, deprived of and alienated from their constitutional rights and privileges? Why does the Indian state not tell its poor people how long they will have to pay the price for the so-called national security, national development and national interests?

The Indian state must understand that the right to education and police camps in the schools cannot go together. The state has been practising such tricks (giving rights by one hand and taking away by the other hand) with the marginalised people of the country for the last six decades. If the government doesn’t stop such games, the rapid growth of Left-wing extremism cannot be halted. Therefore, if Dr Manmohan Singh is really concerned about the children’s rights, he must ensure equal right to education to all children of ‘India’ and ‘Bharat’ rather than practising the dual education system and making hollow statements regarding equality, justice and prosperity.

Gladson Dungdung is a human rights activist and writer from Jharkhand. He can be reached at

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